Diadora Ergo // $170
Pity the shoemakers. The demands of mountain biking create an almost impossible set of goals: create a shoe that is stiff, yet soft enough to hike in. Keep it secure to the foot during 100-rpm sprints, but also be comfortable enough for eight-hour rides. Make it light, make it durable.
Diadora's Ergo hasn't solved every one of those problems, but it does excel in quite a few areas. And right now, there's another compelling reason to check it out: the shoe can be found for rock-bottom prices. Cannondale, which is the distributor of Diadora shoes in North America, decided not carry the Ergo this year, replacing it with the X-Trail. But the Ergo is still available at many online retailers and local shops, often for a fraction of the original cost.
The 374-gram shoe is stiff and its carbon sole ensures an efficient transfer of power to the pedals. Two Velcro straps and ratcheting buckle—standard fare on many higher-end shoes—keep the Ergo respectably snug, even on long hike-a-bikes. Diadora's Micro CL closure has lasted well and has yet to jam with grass, weeds or mud—a problem for some similar systems. And a healthy dose of lightweight mesh throughout the toe box keeps weight low and comfort high.
Diadora's high-end shoes have a reputation for soft synthetic uppers that fit like a glove. In the past, however, they lacked in the durability department. Not so with the Ergo. After eight months of testing that included frequent rides through streams and hike-a-bikes through snow and up steep scree fields, the shoes remain in fairly good shape.
Due to the soft uppers and liberal use of mesh, they don't fit as snugly as some others, and are prone to bunching at the toe box. And despite their surprisingly good condition, they are starting to show signs of impeding damage. The rubber cleats have worn through in spots and some of the seams are looking a little tattered. Still, the shoes were a relatively good deal at $170, and are a downright steal if you can find them for less than $100 (Bikeusa.com has closeout models on sale for $80). Kudos to the shoemakers.